April 25, international DNA Day, marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark publications in Nature announcing the structure of the DNA helix by James Watson, Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, Rosalind Franklin, and their colleagues.  Since then, the innovations and discoveries made in the field of DNA and genetics have far exceeded everyone’s expectations. The timeline below shows some of the important landmarks in the history of DNA discovery.

1953       The three-dimensional structure of the DNA molecule was deduced. In 1962 Francis Crick, along with his colleagues, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

1958       Arthur Kornberg purified DNA polymerase I from E. coli, the first enzyme that enabled scientists to make multiple copies of a DNA molecule in a test tube.

1972       Paul Berg and Herb Boyer produced the first recombinant DNA molecules (This technique allowed scientists to take DNA from one organism and transfer it to another organism’s DNA).

1977      Fred Sanger developed the now widely-used method for sequencing DNA.

1978       Recombinant human insulin, eventually marketed as Humulin, was created–the first drug made by genetic engineering.

1981      Three independent research teams announced the discovery of human oncogenes (cancer genes).

1984       Alec Jeffreys pioneered DNA fingerprinting, the use of DNA to identify individuals and family relationships.

1985       Kary B. Mullis published a paper describing the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), the most sensitive assay for DNA yet devised. This greatly increased the rate at which DNA molecules can be duplicated and reproduced in the laboratory.

1987       Tommie Lee Andrews is convicted of rape in Orlando based on DNA fingerprinting–the first such case in the United States.

1988       The Human Genome Project began with the goal of determining the entire sequence of DNA in human chromosomes.

1990      Gene therapy is successfully used on a patient for the first time.

1994      A genetically modified tomato, the delayed-ripening FlavrSavr, gets the approval of the FDA.

1994      The first breast cancer-associated gene was identified.

2000     An initial draft of the human genome is presented. The complete human genome was unveiled in 2003.

2005-current Genome scanning methods are gaining popularity for medical, family research, and other recreational uses.

Visit our History of DNA Testing page to learn more about the development of family relationship DNA testing technology.